Thursday, 31 January 2019

Snowdrops, Frost, but no Snow

January's been for the main part quite mild. At Shipley Park last weekend the snowdrops were already in flower, and those in my garden ready to follow ... then Wednesday night the temperature plummeted to minus4, and remained low all Thursday. At least we didn't have snow.

The snowdrops closed their petals, the daffodils drooped, and frost worked its magic on everything else, from rosemary to spiders' webs

Rowan berries gave a brief pop of colour to the scene

and the tattered remains of honesty seedpods were transformed into ethereal lace

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Early Snowdrops at Shipley

There are lots of reasons to love having my youngest daughter home for the weekend but one is that she encourages us to get out and do things. So with an hour or so to fill before her train time we went for a brief walk at Shipley Country Park.

It was a sunny, bright afternoon but winds were whipping across the hillside with some force (I had to take off my hat before I lost it!)

It was definitely too blowy for this tree!

 My garden snowdrops aren't really flowering yet so to see this carpet spreading under the trees was a lovely surprise.

When the snowdrops appear, it isn't long till Spring :)

It won't be many weeks, if that, till the main mass of snowdrops lining the old drive will flower, so I'll be back before long to see them.

Just a month later - snowdrops in flower and early daffodils

Friday, 25 January 2019

Treats to brighten up January

It's post-Christmas, and January is cold and miserable. By February there'll hopefully be snowdrop gardens to visit, crocuses flowering, and Spring to look forward to, but January is in my opinion the dullest month of the year. So, armed with my 'Christmas money' I've been treating myself.

As a small child, when toys were always fun, I never really appreciated being given money instead of something I could play with, (also, I was so often made to put some in my post office account) but as I turned into a teenager I realised that having what seemed like a considerable amount of money to spend just as I pleased was a great idea. I still feel the same. Don't get me wrong, I love prettily wrapped presents from my nearest and dearest, something chosen with care and love, but sometimes it's nice to be able to go out and treat yourself, without having to justify the expenditure - and, admit it, January is full of tempting sales bargains.

I started, as many of us no doubt would, with new clothes - some tops, a new dress, which is too tight and I REALLY need to slim down to get into, but it so gorgeous and was an amazing bargain.

Then I got tempted by an on-line yarn sale ... Since my grandson's been born, I've been gradually getting back into knitting (particularly when binge-watching box-sets) and I thought it was time to make something for myself so, despite the mass of odds and ends hoarded away, I treated myself to some half-price wool to make a cardigan - it's also the perfect colour to go with some of my newly purchased tops.

On a trip to the DIY store for paint, I found myself bringing home a few plants from the 'reduced to clear' rack  - a carnation, six wallflowers and 24 pansies - all for £1.50!

For now they're living on the work surface in the porch waiting for the weather to improve but in spring I hope the garden will be a mass of colour.

My one trip in deliberate search of sale bargains nearly failed. I went looking for shoes or boots, and couldn't find any to suit, or at least that I thought were reduced enough in price. But the day was saved by (half-price) chocolates! I love Hotel Chocolat goodies but they're a special treat and I'd never buy them for myself at full price. Remembering the newly-bought too-tight dress, I also picked up a dieting book in a sale.

Having shampoo to buy I found myself close to make-up counters so ... some 'Twitter blue' nail varnish and a luscious plum lipstick. Both were from teenage 'pocket money' brands but treats don't need to cost a fortune.

A joint treat to share with my husband (along with the chocolates). I'm a fan of Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) and saw this at the cinema. I wasn't sure my husband would enjoy it, but he did.

Those 'sale' e-mails just keep coming throughout January, don't they? I have one Emma Bridgewater mug with a pattern of oranges in, and this one makes a perfect, complementary but not matching, pair for it.

And, last though not least, having failed to find what I wanted in the shops, brought to me by the power of the internet, shoes!

Time to stop spending for a while now. Like a good little child, I shall save some money, for adults always have bigger treats they need -  new kitchen cupboards, a room or two in need of decoration - but they can wait till Spring.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Derby - Night and Day

St Peter's 
 I've been trying for a while, in a spirit of mindfulness, to take more notice of my surroundings instead of dashing straight past to wherever it is I need to be. My family tend to dismiss this as hanging around, taking too many photographs and instagramming everywhere, but for me it's a way of noticing what's around me, and I think we see things differently through the frame of a camera lens (even if that's only on my phone). There'll probably be more of this kind of blog - shots of things we'd walk past and ignore.

St Peter's

First, an evening trip down town to book club, which also included a mini-adventure of an after-dark trip on the bus. I did warn that these adventures would be 'mini', and not overly exciting, but travelling on a bus is a novelty for me.

Last chance to see the Christmas lights

Look above the shops. It's more interesting up there

At night the city looks different, the lights at the church and above the shops making features stand out that in daytime I'd never notice.

River Derwent and Council House
Council House

A few days later I was back in daytime, a wonderfully sunny day for January, with the Council House reflected in the Derwent, Exeter Bridge casting intriguing shadows, and the old Corn exchange building looking very imposing.

Old Corn Exchange

Walking back to the car park I even spotted blossom and early crocuses.

All it takes is a minute to stop and look around.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Calke Winter Garden

Visiting gardens at this time of year, when there's merely bare bones (or branches) to be seen, might seem like an odd idea, but as Calke Abbey have decided to open their gardens over winter we'd thought we'd check them out.

There was actually much more to see than I expected ...
On the approach to the garden there are hazel catkins and witch-hazel flowers to be seen, and inside the walled garden the palms were surviving well - I'd expected them to be wrapped in plastic or something to keep them warm, so was pleasantly pleased to be able to inspect their strange 'furry' looking trunks.

Behind them in the flower beds are wallflowers ready to brighten this area of garden when spring arrives.

I'd hoped we might see some really early snowdrops (we didn't) but wasn't expecting to see calendulas still flowering alongside a south-facing wall.

The old orangery did have flowers - though I'm not sure what they were - and a profusion of other hot-house plants.

Empty vegetable beds helped show off the rather lovely woven bed-edging at one end of the kitchen garden, while at the other scarecrows were hard at work keeping birds away from quite a variety of over-wintering crops - brussels sprouts, celeriac, winter salad and, I think, globe artichokes. These last are a new veg for me but they certainly look attractive in a winter garden.

globe artichokes

Calke is always a good place to spot the odd and quirky, old and weathered, often looking like a weird still life painting -

 'ivy growing up a leaning door with milk churn'

'rusted pipe'- detail

'the door that time forgot'

'nature reclaiming a wall'

and 'farm still-life with roller'

In winter these seem at their best, with a muted palette echoing the sky
and no distraction from bright, energetic flowers.

It was a chilly but pleasant day.
A spot of stillness and quiet (despite some small, energetic visitors) in a hectic time. And something I'd certainly try again. While they're in 'winter' mode, dogs are allowed in on leads, so Dylan the dog might like to explore them too.